Following the shooting in Uvalde, TX, there have been countless stories on the internet about kids being afraid to go to school. Students all over the country learn how to keep themselves safe in school: hide away from the door or windows, don’t call out for help unless you know the shooter is gone, pretend to be dead if necessary, and call the police. All these lockdown drills, and yet we still watched in horror as 21 lives were lost at a small-town elementary school. Nineteen of them were only nine or ten years old.
So, where do we go from here? What can you do to help your children cope with the fear of doing the most important thing a kid can do: go to school?
Discussing what your child is feeling is the first and most necessary step to helping them. Some parents may be afraid to have this conversation with their kids. They want their children to remain innocent and protected from the big, evil world. However, that will only leave your child unprepared if the worst does come to their school. A conversation about school shootings will allow your children to ask questions that might concern them and make them feel better prepared if something does happen. Remember, this conversation may vary depending on your child's age, but it is still important to touch upon in some way if your child shows concern.
This is also important in helping identify dangers at school. If your child witnesses aggression or acts of violence from another student, they will feel more open to discussing what’s going on with you so they can take proper actions.
Therapy is often more associated with adults and adult issues, not kids. A study in 2019 from the CDC, however, estimates that 13.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 received mental health treatment. If you can afford to take your child to a therapist (many take insurance) or if your school provides access to a counselor, it may be beneficial to pursue one of these options to help your child develop the tools to deal with fear or anxiety caused by the rise of school shootings. In addition, a therapist can also teach your child how to better cope with their stress to make their learning experience more comfortable overall.
Therapy can be a good tool for you as a parent as well. Kids may not be anxious about school shootings if they think it wouldn’t happen to their school. Parents can become overconcerned, however, and this fear can affect your child. If an additional source of support appeals to you, consider finding the right therapist to learn how to cope with fears or anxieties you may have around school safety.
There are several ways that a parent can be proactive regarding school shootings. Becoming more involved at school, such as creating a parent’s group or serving in your child’s classroom, is a great option. Another method is reviewing a safety plan with your child to make sure they understand what to do in the case of an emergency.
The most important thing a parent can do, though, is to be an advocate for their child. Whether that is in your neighborhood, your school, and/or your entire community, you can raise awareness about how we can better protect our children and enable them to feel safe at school.
No parent wants to think about what could happen to their child during a school shooting, much less take that innocence from our children by discussing these possibilities. Unfortunately, the last few weeks have shown that we must deal with this reality in the U.S. So, all we can do right now is be prepared, be vigilant, and fight to create a better future for our children, their education, and their safety.